It's been well over 15 years since I initially read Adolph Huxley's Brave New World. I have just finished re-reading it, and I must say, Huxley has presented one of the most accurate predictions of life in the future from the era in which he wrote his novel.
While Orwell foretold some equally accurate prognostications regarding the surveillance police state and heavy handed authoritarian government that would try to control every citizen's thoughts and behaviors, I do believe Huxley was closer to the mark in envisioning how our modern day society would become.
As Neil Postman wrote in the foreward to his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death:
We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another -- slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.
Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.
Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.
Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.
As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite capacity for distractions." In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.
I've read 1984 at least three times over the years, but it was the re-reading of "Brave New World" -- this time with a mind made aware of the realities of our current existence -- that I have to say, I believe Postman was right about this.
Look how far along Huxley's nightmare vision of dystopia have already come to pass....
* Sex would be completely disassociated with reproduction. (We're almost there.)
* The nuclear family model would fall out of mainstream acceptability. Motherhood and Fatherhood would become shameful. (We're almost there.)
* The use of chemicals by the population to avoid facing the stark reality of their existence.
* The rigid stratification of society into a socio-economic caste system.
* The conditioning of society to not value traditions, religion, or anything that is old. No value in keeping, mending or fixing things...a disposable society in which all things that break or wear out quickly and are immediately thrown out and replaced with NEW.
* The cultural acceptance of death as each person's duty to make way for your replacement in the larger community.
But most of all, I think Huxley's most accurate prediction was the successful means of the power elite to use what he called Hypnopædia - The use of repetitive suggestion to brainwash the masses. Except Huxley described this process in his story with the State implanting suggestions in developing infants while they sleep...we the Sheeple gladly embrace our own indoctrination and brainwashing while we are conscious and attending state indoctrination facilities (public schools and Universities) and our own voluntary consumption of mass media "entertainment!"
Environmentalism, Feminism, and Communitarianism are all our current versions of Conscious and Deliberate Hypnopædia. Talk to the average first world person still totally plugged into the current societal Matrix...and you will find it almost scary the platitudes, cliche's and verboten "opinions" they espouse.
Just like Huxley's characters repeating their hypnopædiac phrases, one can easily see the same sort of phrases regarding sex, Soma and behaviors, just listen/watch/read the thought patterns being regurgitated by ANY self-identified "Republican", "Democrat","liberal", "Conservative", "Feminist","Environmentalist" or even "Voter" in our modern world.
In fact, I think we could define "Political Correctness" as conforming to our Brave New World Order's hypnopædiac conditioning.
However, the thing I fear the most about our Brave New World Order is that Postman was merely making observations relevant to his time (he wrote the aforementioned quote in 1985), because I believe that the current paradigm of the New World Order following Huxley's prescient vision of population control through mass dumbing-down and infantilization of the sheeple and distracting them with base, hedonistic pleasures, will eventually result in mankind waking up from our stupefying slumber and find ourselves screaming under the authoritarian jackboot dystopia foretold by Orwell.
Once the New World Order power elite social engineers that have molded and shaped our present day existence have achieved absolute entrenchment into power and control, I think Orwell's vision will become our new reality.
The only real question here is how will each and every one of us refuse and resist? How can we save our own liberty and freedom from their nefarious master plan?
Because, after stepping back and looking at the big picture, I really don't see much hope for our future as a society and a culture.